ASH

Vixen Chat: ASH On Singing Backup For Janelle Monáe And Creating 'The Perfect EP'

ASH dishes to Vixen about her musical journey, her must-have beauty products and what she learned from Janelle Monáe.

ASH's road to stardom has been everything but boring. After bagging a bachelor's degree in Theater from Atlanta’s prestigious Spelman College, the brown-eyed beauty headed to the nation’s capital for a gig in homeland security. After bouncing across the country from D.C. to L.A. to ATL, ASH landed her first break in the limelight as one of Janelle Monáe’s backup singers.

“Singing with Janelle was so much fun,” she told VIBE Vixen. “If you look at any background vocalist, they kind of just stand behind the mic, doing their part by moving side to side, but man, with Janelle, (Laughs) we have to dance, split and sing. It was really fun because it pushed me harder than I think I would have ever been pushed, singing with anyone else. I become stronger and definitely a better performer, a better woman and just a lot more energetic.“

Now, the Cleveland native is putting what she learned from Janelle into practice as she strives to cement her own spot in the music industry with her debut project The Perfect EP.

VIBE Vixen: When did you first realize you wanted to do music?
ASH: I was about 12 when it hit me that [music] was something a little more serious than just singing around the house but my mom was not really on board with me pursuing anything at that age outside of school.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Chaka Khan is definitely my favorite female vocalist. She is a legend. Her voice is one of a kind. Her beauty, her passion, her ability to get up there and just sing her heart out with class and sexiness is something that I’ve always admired. I would also say Steve Perry from Journey. As a songwriter with such a big voice, he still has really emotional lyrics. I feel like I could always identify with those parts of him. And I love Babyface. I always feel he’s like a long lost uncle because he is an Aries like me. I feel like he understands love and how to write music in a way that can penetrate a listener.

Before you started singing, you had a job in public service on Capitol Hill.
When I graduated from college, I started looking for jobs; so I applied to homeland security and went through that whole process of trying to get hired and get into a class. So I moved to Washington, D.C. and I was networking on Capitol Hill, [while] babysitting. After a few months of that, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I saved up some money and moved to L.A. for a little bit just to regroup, figure out my plan and how I was going to strategically pursue this career in music.

Was it a hard transition?
I didn’t plan on moving to L.A. for a long time. I had some really good mentors who live out there and so I saved up about $10,000—enough to have a rental car when I needed it, to eat and have money in the bank for just a couple of months. But yeah, it was scary because I did leave the stability of working in D.C. I was scared, but I wasn’t happy. I did my part by saving and making sure that I had a cushion for myself. It was scary because it was new but it wasn’t scary enough for me to think twice about it.

How did you start singing with Janelle Monáe?
I moved back to Atlanta from L.A. I decided Atlanta was the best bet for me because the cost of living is way better than D.C., L.A. or New York, but it still has a very musical background. You can still network. I was singing, doing little things here and there, and I had some friends who have auditioned for really big artists, and one of my friends was like, ‘Hey, Janelle is looking for some singers. You should totally go out for that position.’

A couple of months went by and I didn’t hear anything so I didn’t think much of it I was like ‘Oh, whatever I probably didn’t get it. There are so many singers out here.' I was actually in a weird space because I was like, ‘I wonder if I could move back to D.C. and kind of jump back into what I was doing before.’ Something told me, ‘No, this is what you’re supposed to do.’ So I literally jumped in the shower and was praying. My phone rang, but I missed the phone call. So then I got out the shower and saw a number that I did not recognize. When I checked my voicemail, it was her music director saying that they had heard a lot about me and that I was highly recommended. They were interested in knowing if I would give them a call back and maybe sing background for Janelle. So, of course, I was like ‘Absolutely.’

ALSO SEE: Dance Along To ASH’s ‘Anyway’ Video

When did you decide that you wanted to make that transition from backup singer to solo artist?
I knew years ago that I wanted to be a soloist, but there is a process to that. Singing with Janelle Monáe definitely gave me a lot more insight and understanding on what it means to be a performer and an artist. But what put the pressure on me was my father being terminally ill. One thing that he kept asking me was, ‘When are you going to put your own record out? I’m always recording videos of you performing with Janelle and I love her but I want you to put out something.' And so it hit me. I started gaining some inspiration, little by little. I would go home and write in my journal and over time, I pretty much put the record together. I was able to let my dad hear it and he loved it.

Switching gears a bit, what are some beauty products you can’t live without?
I definitely have to have a nice, black, wide-rimmed fedora hat. I need a spray water bottle for my hair to put my clips in. I’m addicted to mascara, so I definitely have to have that. And there is this eyeliner from MAC called Teddy that I’m addicted to. I have brown eyes, and [Teddy’s] a brown liner. It just kind of gives ‘hot’ without being over-the-top.

How would you describe your style?
I almost want to say it’s like the urban girl next door. I’m really chill. I love sneakers. I love flannels. I like sexiness, but not too much. I could just throw on some [Nike] dunks or a crazy shoe or something funky and different, but just simple.

Lastly, what inspires your music?
Well, really, just life. My honest personality has always been to respond to anything with love, and trying to put myself in people’s shoes from a foundation of love. If someone does me wrong or even with the fact that I was dealing with my father, who was my best friend, dying, how could I respond to these hurt feelings with love and in love? I wanted this EP to be very reflective of me and be very honest. I like to dance, I love to perform but at the same time while being pop, I still wanted to be honest and kind of give you soul through my lyrics. Hopefully there is a little bit of something for everybody to like on it.

Cop ASH.'s The Perfect EP on iTunes here.

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Charlamagne Tha God Calls Jussie Smollett A Clout Chaser In DOTD Roast

Thursday morning, (Feb. 21) Jussie Smollett turned himself into police after evidence proved the hate crime, in which he alleged to have been beaten by two MAGA hat wearing men as they hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, was a lie.

After weeks of gaining support from some of entertainment's biggest names, news of Smollett's orchestrated attack disappointed many. The Breakfast Club co-host Charlamagne Tha God took Smollett to task and dubbed the Empire actor "Donkey of The Day" for his lies and deceit despite admitting he had doubts from the beginning.

"I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he's a black man and why wouldn't I believe a black man who tells me he's been the victim of a hate crime? Why wouldn't I believe a gay man who tells me he's the victim of hate crime?" the ShookOne author said.

Throughout the roast, Charlamagne played clips of Jussie speaking from index cards during his Los Angeles show shortly after the alleged attack, and his sit down with Robin Roberts. However, Charlamagne said Jussie dropped clues about his lie during both public appearances.

"We all should've known Jussie Lyon was lying when he went on Good Morning America and was more upset people didn't believe him, rather than him being upset about the crime that allegedly happened to him," he said.

Charlamagne sums up Smollett's actions simply on his desire not just for attention, but to also be a martyr.

"Now I know, the magic question everyone is asking is why? Why would he make something like this up? He wanted to be the gay Tupac. Jussie Lyon wanted to be a martyr," Charlamagne said.

"He wanted to be a symbol of someone who stood up against hate in America. He wanted the same admiration you see Kaepernick getting for taking a knee for black people. He wanted the attention that Meek is getting for standing for the rights of those in prison. Jussie Lyon wanted to be the gay Tupac."

 

 

 

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'American Soul' Episode 4 Recap: Don, You In Danger, Boo

We couldn’t help but focus on the men of American Soul during Episode 4.

The ladies are good, for the most part: Tessa found her footing, literally and figuratively, finally showing Flo and the Soul Train gang she ain’t nothin’ to play with on the dance floor, and checking Don for taking out his frustration on her with mixed messages and disrespect. Simone is still getting away with using a fake ID to chase her singing dreams in a jazz club and has emerged as a Soul Train fan favorite.

But the men are having a tough time.

JT avoided getting pinched for his role in the robbery and police shooting – but only because Chris (Trey Best) made sure the crime was pinned on someone else. Now we maybe understand why Benny (Kristopher Charles) was tearing up after giving info to the police last episode. He knew he was basically writing a death certificate. Chris has now told JT he won’t get any money from the heist, so all the stress and drama was for naught. Now his family’s finally being evicted. Just as it seems he can buy a little bit more time, Mr. Willard pushes JT past the breaking point with a comment about his mom’s “million-dollar mouth.” We knew this was coming; people been talking to JT crazy for 3 episodes now. JT knocks him out, and the family seeks shelter from Ma Mable (Elizabeth Omilami) in a storage room at the diner. JT wants to hide this from Simone and Kendall, even against Ma Mable’s grandmotherly advice, “Don’t lie to the people you love.”

Simone’s on a mission to save up enough money for Encore to cut a demo and gives JT the pooled cash to hold onto. She knows his mama’s a drug addict, why would she do that? We’ll bet $96 - the amount Simone passed to JT - that the money’s gone next episode. Also possibly gone next episode? JT’s mama. Soon he may have to cut her loose so he doesn’t drown along with her.

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Don rolls through Club 100 Proof hoping he can again grab an act through Gerald, but Gerald makes it clear that the new BFF free trial period is over. “(The) first taste is hospitality, brotha,” he says. “Now you gotta pay to eat.” Eventually, the two businessmen come to a gentlemen’s agreement: Gerald will help Don land marquee acts for a 5% cut of the business. But what Don doesn’t know (that we do), is that Gerald is a for real gangster. Like killing people and then standing up to his gangster boss’ crew, gangster. Don, you in danger, boo.

Before settling on an arrangement with Gerald, Don tries one more time to land an act on his own. Following a tip that Ron Isley is performing at an NAACP fundraiser, Don crashes the event and runs into Motown’s Ilsa Dejarrnette (Shannon Kane). Isla and Don bond over a little coke (what’s a couple of lines between social acquaintances?) and Ilsa offers to help him navigate the black bourgeoisie and make an introduction to Diana Ross (Michelle Williams), who showed up in place of Isley.  Don, ever anxious and determined to do things his own way, charms Ross by knowing she sang Ray Charles’ “The Night Time is the Right Time” when she first auditioned for Berry Gordy. Diana, of course, is way too big of a star for a fledgling show, and she tells Don as much. Now, Don must get into Dejarnette’s good graces to get an in with Motown acts. Sounds like a scandalous tryst is on the horizon.

What this episode got right: Soul Train dancers indeed got paid in fried chicken. Members of the Soul Train Gang weren’t compensated, but there was free KFC on set every show taping for lunch.

What it could have done without: Johnnie Cochran showing up as the attorney for Dexter Brown might be a bit much. We appreciate incorporating black figures that we know and will recognize, and highlighting their backstory (Cochran made his name representing black victims in highly publicized police brutality cases), but the intersecting moments can feel forced.

What we absolutely don’t believe: That a record label’s legal representative is all up in lounges and parties, having final say on who performs where, and schmoozing with artists. Even at an everyone-wears-multiple-hats label like Motown. Ilsa is most likely based on long-time Motown senior executive Suzanne De Passe, but De Passe worked on all aspects of creative and artist development.

What we don’t understand: Why there wasn’t more of Janelle Monae’s Wondaland artist Roman GianArthur as Ernie Isley.

This wasn’t the strongest episode so far, but it was a necessary plot builder. Episode 5 looks lit, though. (Come through K. Michelle!)

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Kehlani Hits Snowy Slopes With Dom Kennedy For "Nunya" Music Video

When it concerns her personal situations in love, Kehlani is taking the mind over matter approach. Over a chill West Coast-style beat paired with Dom Kennedy's lyrics, the 23-year-old mother-to-be is denouncing those who want unsolicited participation in matters of the heart on “Nunya.”

With picturesque sceneries of snow and mountains, Lani creates a winter wonderland fantasy as the sun glistens over her chic white outfits. Amid the beautiful images, there are brief interludes of the Oakland native partying it up as she delivers a message of independence.

“Nunya” is reportedly featured on Kehlani’s forthcoming mixtape, While We Wait. Kehlani recently announced on Twitter that the project is to set to drop on Friday (Feb. 22).

#1 rnb album and it don’t drop till tomorrow!!!!!!! i love y’all so much!!!!!! https://t.co/IBYytzx7Jq

— Kehlani (@Kehlani) February 21, 2019

midnight everywhere wherever you are.

some will get it earlier than others depending on the country.

wherever you are, whenever you receive it... thank you so much for listening. i’m proud of this one. 🧡 #WhileWeWait

— Kehlani (@Kehlani) February 21, 2019

"I made a mixtape, mixtape are my jam, that’s like, my happy thing," she told Beats 1's Zane Lowe. "We did it again, and we made an amazing mixtape that I’m really, really stoked about."

Watch the video for "Nunya" above.

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